When New Motherhood Isn’t What You Expected – Build a Village.
Are you finding it difficult to connect with your baby? Do you feel guilty because being a mom is not what you imagined it would be? Is new motherhood not what you expected? Whatever struggle you may be facing, we want you to know that you are not alone! Many new moms experience these feelings and struggle to find themselves in this new life.
We hope that you can read this story and feel less alone in motherhood!
When my son was born, I couldn’t hold him.
I remember looking at his fingers and toes, thinking: “Isn’t this what I’m supposed to do? Count all the little fingers and toes to make sure they’re all there?” Before I had a chance to count, my husband and son were both swept out of the operating room due to some complications I had. When I could finally look at my son, it was in the recovery room where my husband was providing the skin-to-skin bonding. I had spiked a fever, which only further delayed my ability to hold him. But when I finally had a chance to touch my son’s arm in the elevator on the way to our room, I felt nothing.
I kept waiting for that overwhelming love to pour out and turn into that instant connection you hear mothers talk about. All I remember is the pain, the fear, and the sadness. I worried that I would crush my baby’s skull when I tried to get him to latch for the first time, or that he would suffocate when he finally did latch. During the five days I was in the hospital, I didn’t sleep more than a couple of hours per day. “Oh cherish your sleep because you won’t get any until they go to college,” the doomsday well-wishers would tell me when they found out I was pregnant. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” they said, as if I could force myself to have the sleep cycle of a newborn.
By day three, the crying started. My son’s jaundice posed yet another worry, and I added it to my rapidly growing causes of death I predicted for my son before he was a week old. I remember the first episode of sleep deprivation on day five. When I woke up at midnight, I didn’t know where I was and it scared me. I felt confused and out of control. Every day, I felt like there was a new challenge. But of course there was, because this was parenthood!
I kept telling myself: “This is normal right?”
So what if I get enraged at my son’s crying? If I get furious at the leaks and spills from both of our bodies? Or if I am exasperated at the constant never ending needs of this loud tiny creature? I kept hearing that this was all just an “adjustment” to parenting.
If I couldn’t stop crying or felt like I was a terrible mother for being unable to soothe my child, I heard: “It’s just baby blues, everyone gets them.” When I started to think about running away and leaving my son behind with my husband or my mom, I heard: “That’s crazy, you wouldn’t do that. What would that solve?” When my husband went back to work and my mother returned to her home that was 4 hours away, I felt so alone. Everyone else I knew worked 40-hour weeks. On top of feeling so isolated, my negative thoughts got the best of me. I started panicking at night, dreading the constant feedings, diaper changes, and loneliness. I’d be so anxious for the next day when my husband would leave me alone with the baby, who I felt was sucking the life out of me.
My incision wasn’t healing right, which caused additional trips back to the OB. Breastfeeding wasn’t going well because he wasn’t latching, and the pain was never ending. I heard, “I never had that problem,” and “Breastfeeding just hurts, it takes time to toughen up.” Never mind the feeling of blisters, as if glass was cutting me, and the resentment that breastfeeding wasn’t working. The constant pumping as a solution, which disrupted sleep even more and made leaving the house complicated. The crying that seemed to never stop, to the point of dehydration. I was feeling so tired, but so wired with worry that I couldn’t shut my mind off.
After weeks and months, when I still couldn’t stop crying, or thinking my son would be better off without me, I came to the realization that this might be more than baby blues.
Every family need a village of support to THRIVE.
As a mental health counsellor, I told myself that I should have been able to prevent this. I should have been able to deal with this. Thankfully, I had resources at my disposal due to my job. However, the frustration in the journey to wellness was almost enough to make me give up, even with these resources available to me. Who do you turn to when you don’t have those resources? Do you talk to your OB? Your child’s pediatrician? These are the primary supports that you are seeing immediately after birth. The secondary supports are friends, family, and mom groups. We’ve all heard the phrase “it takes a village,” and I truly believe that parents and families deserve a village of support that is not difficult to access.
I’m here one year later and I survived. I feel a love and bond with my son that increases with each passing day. I’m lucky. I’ve learned how important it is to advocate for yourself, and to advocate for your child. If we can implement more supports during pregnancy instead of waiting until after the baby is born, maybe we can start to finally see change. I’ll never forget going to a community breastfeeding group and seeing all of the other women – insecure, unsure, embarrassed, and realizing: “Wow, no one really knows what they’re doing. And that’s okay. We’re figuring it out.”
I believe that speaking up about your struggles reduces the stigma, encourages others to share their stories, and provides empathy to those who may be struggling. It can be life changing to hear those words, “Me too.”
Guest Blogger: Kathryn Ordonia, LMHC
Kathryn Ordonia is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Central Florida. She graduated with her combined MS/EdS degrees in Mental Health Counseling from Florida State University. Kathryn works at her private practice in Lakeland, Florida as well at a local inpatient psychiatric unit. She is passionate about advocating for women’s healthcare and creating awareness on maternal mental health and related issues. Her role in outpatient and inpatient mental health care provides her with a unique perspective on effective treatment and support. She is actively working towards certification in Perinatal Mental Health through Postpartum Support International. Connect with Kathryn on Facebook here.